March 27, 2009
What: Women's National Invitation Tournament
Where: Santa Ana Star Center -- Rio Rancho
Monday: Lobos vs. Kansas, 7 p.m., Santa Ana Star Center
Friday: Lobos 61, Oregon State 56
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
So much for the Pac-10. So much for Oregon State. For the Lobos, it's back to the Big 12 and also back to Rio Rancho and the warm and cuddly Santa Ana Star Center.
The Lobos' curious run through the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) continued Friday night at the Star Center as the Lobos beat Oregon State 61-56 and advanced to a Monday night battle with Kansas. The Lobos beat Nebraska of the Big 12 Wednesday night in the Star Center.
The Lobos once again were embraced by a large and rowdy Star Center crowd (4,759) and seemed to feed off the energy of that arena in the closing minutes of their win over Oregon State.
"I think noise-wise, it was Pit level," said Lobo coach Don Flanagan. "The Pit is one of the noisiest places you can play and that was a great simulation of The Pit."
It also was a simulation that seemed to stimulate the Lobos into a hard-nosed drive to victory. "The crowd did a great job of keeping our kid's energy high," said Flanagan.
The win raised UNM's record to 25-10 and the Lobos game Monday against Kansas will set a program record for the most games played in a season at 36. Kansas is 20-13 and advanced with a win over Arkansas.
The Lobos were led by freshman Sara Halasz, who came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points, 14 in the first half. Angela Hartill scored 15 points and Amy Beggin chipped in 13 points. "She played pretty well tonight and we needed her," Flanagan said of Halasz.
The Lobos ran out of 41-38 deficit in the second half using back-to-back treys by Angela Hartill and Lauren Taylor to roll into a 46-43 lead that the Lobos never relinquished. But they had to fight to keep it that way. "That was a big trey by Lauren," said Flanagan.
Oregon State cut UNM's lead to 47-45 before senior Amanda Adamson made two free throws with 3:39 to go to raise UNM into a 49-45 lead. Oregon State's Brittney Davis then hit a trey to bring the Beavers to 49-48.
UNM's Amy Beggin answered with a trey at 3:06 to make it 52-48 and Amanda Best then got open underneath and took a pass from Hartill that pushed UNM up 54-48 at the 2:13 mark. The Beavers still had some fight left and Davis launched in another trey to make it 54-51 with 1:40 to go. Hartill rolled in a single free throw to up UNM into a 55-51 lead.
The Beavers again cut into the lead, this time making it 55-53 with 45 seconds left. Beggin then played with the ball up front before finding Best open for a layup and a 57-53 UNM lead with 26 seconds left. Oregon State then missed a shot and Hartill got fouled on the rebound. She made two free shots to push UNM up 59-53 with 10.8 ticks to go.
That probably was the game, but Davis made it interesting by hitting a quick trey to produce a 59-56 scoreboard with seven seconds to go. The Beavers needed a miracle finish which Beggin squashed at the line with two free throws with 4.8 seconds to go. That formed the 61-56 final.
"It was an extremely physical and extremely competitive game," said Flanagan. "I got a whole group that's pretty physically banged up. That's very difficult at this time of the year to play two very physical teams back-to-back.
"At this time of the year, you have to really gut it out. We're still motivated."
The Lobos overcame a couple of potentially huge problems in the first half. First, Beggin, UNM's leading scorer, didn't make a field goal and scored only two points off two free throws with 1:45 to play. Second, Hartill picked up two fouls and spend way too much time on the bench. She played eight minutes in the first half.
However, the bench was good to UNM, outscoring the UNM starters 19-to-10 in the first half. The big gun off the pine was Halasz, who scored 14 points in the first half. The Lobos couldn't shake the Beavers in the initial 20 minutes.
Back-to-back buckets by Adamson and Halasz gave UNM a 20-15 lead, but Oregon State clawed back to tie the game at 23-all. UNM was up 29-25 on a Nikki Nelson free throw, but the Beavers scored the final four points of the half to form the 29-all tie at the break.
The Lobos draw of 4,749 combined with Wednesday's crowd of 4,499 gives the Lobo women a total of 9,258 for two WNIT games in Rio Rancho. Not bad. "I really think we'll get more fans for the next game," said Flanagan. "It's a lot of fun to play here."
Lobo Notes: Hartill had a team-high eight rebounds ... Beggin scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half ... New Mexico is 7-1 in its last eight WNIT games ... Junior Georonika Jackson made her first career start ... Beggin has played a school-record 1,266 minutes this season ... She has 538 points in 2008-09, the second-best total in school history... also moved into 12th place all-time at UNM with 1,048 points